The Publication of The Report on the Islands Bill
The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee (RECC) of the Scottish Parliament has published its Stage 1 Report on the Islands Bill. You can read and download the whole report here: Report on Islands Bill
The cross party committee chaired by Edward Mountain is of the view that “an overarching and strategic National Islands Plan is desirable” but that with “the creation of local authority level island plans a statutory requirement”.
The Committee visited Orkney on 2nd of October 2017 when it took evidence from representatives of both Orkney and Shetland Islands Councils. They also visited businesses and held conversations with local groups. The oral evidence gathered by the RECC is included at the end of the report.
The Report questions the Scottish Government for not including the request of Orkney Islands Council (OIC) to include a community benefit clause.
A wide consultation process is recommended in the formulation of the Islands Plan with a particular focus on the needs of young people. It has also suggested that the 6 local authorities with island communities be involved in the consultation.
Concerns were raised around the term ‘island proofing’ and that it should not be seen as a tick box exercise but that it must involve ‘a change in mindset and culture shift’. Guidance is required to help this change in mindset and how to use ‘island proofing’ and ‘impact assessments’. The Committee wish the Islands Bill to be amended to include an appeal process when decisions are made.
Increased powers for Marine Licensing are not yet published and clarification is required about existing licenses granted under Zetland legislation.
“The Committee notes that the confusion around responsibilities and boundaries in relation to the 12 nautical mile limit (which may intrude into another island’s marine area or the mainland) will be dealt with as part of the consultation on the regulations.”
Reassurances are sought about the jurisdiction of existing port authorities.
The Report also notes that the Islands Plan will have an impact on addressing equalities issues of isolation and remoteness,
“in addition to having regard to the distinctive geographical and cultural characteristics of the islands, it could also have regard to their linguistic heritage” .
There are still a lot of unanswered questions relating to finance and how funding will be achieved.
Changing electoral boundaries is a potential provision in the Islands Bill, however, the view of the RECC was inconclusive. The Local Government Boundary Commission is responsible for this. Some islanders do not like the multi member wards which cover more than 1 island and in some cases parts of a mainland area too. The Local Boundary Commission:
“cautioned that the use of a single member ward in particular would appear to have a potentially significant impact on the electoral system which may not be seen as in the interests of effective and convenient local government.”
Edward Mountain, RECC convener said:
“This Bill is an enabling piece of legislation that will provide for future action by the Scottish Government. However, the Committee believes that the Scottish Government will need to manage the expectations of islanders who may expect more immediate, tangible outcomes to be delivered.
“our report recommends that the Government adopts the widest possible consultation on the development of the National Islands Plan, and cautions that island impact assessments should not become a tick box exercise.
“This committee supports the empowerment of island communities and stresses the importance of local decision making. Our report, therefore, calls for local authority level plans to be created that sit under the National Islands Plan.”
This is what Edward Mountain had to say about the Islands Bill on his visit to Orkney in October
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Reporter: Fiona Grahame